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Feds: JC lawyer offered local man $36K to marry woman

Feds: JC lawyer offered local man $36K to marry woman

February 12th, 2013 in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Federal officials allege that a married Jefferson City lawyer offered to pay a broke high school teacher to marry the lawyer's Ukranian lover so she wouldn't have to leave when her student visa expired.

But the teacher was engaged to someone else, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, and the deal came crashing down when the teacher's jilted fiancee went to authorities.

Federal officials in St. Louis charged the Ukrainian woman, Dar'ya Chernova, 38, with attempting to falsely procure naturalization and lying to an immigration official. She pleaded not guilty late last month. Her attorney, Brocca Smith, said the case was likely to go to trial.

There's no indication in court records that the teacher or lawyer face charges.

In court documents and testimony, federal prosecutors and agents say the lawyer, James Douglas Barding, offered $36,000 to area high school techer Timothy Dunville if he would marry Chernova. It was not stated whether the money was paid.

Neither Dunville nor Barding was present at the hearing. They have not been charged, according to available court records.

Chernova's lawyer said her client attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City on a tennis scholarship and later graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Chernova and Dunville were married by a municipal judge in Jackson, Mo., on March 13, 2005 - with Barding as a witness - and later filed paperwork with immigration officials so she could stay, prosecutors said.

Just four days later, Barding represented Dunville in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. And in October of that year, he also represented Dunville in a child custody case involving the former fiancee - they had a child together.

According to claims in court documents, Chernova lied in a 2010 interview with immigration officials when she said Dunville was the father of her second child. DNA tests proved that Barding was the father of her first and second, prosecutors say.

Smith said she believed that Chernova and Dunville remain married and that Chernova's citizenship application was still pending.